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  • Writer's pictureLinnea Archibald

4 favorite short novels for a rainy day

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Though I love losing myself in a longer tome, there’s something wonderfully satisfying about being able to sit down on the couch and read an entire book cover to cover in just a few hours. Plus, reading a short book can be just the ticket for getting out of a reading rut because it gives you a quick win.

If you’re in need of a quick read for a rainy weekend day (which we’ve had a lot of lately here in Maine) or to build some momentum in your reading life, I assembled four of my favorite short books. All these books come in well under 300 pages (the longest on the list is 216 pages) and would make the perfect quick escape for an afternoon or the perfect book to throw in a carry-on bag for your next trip without taking up too much space.

I picked this book up at Parnassus Books in Nashville in the fall of 2019 and read the whole thing on the plane ride home. It was on the “recommended by Ann Patchett” shelf (and features an introduction by Patchett herself) and I will be forever grateful that she is bringing attention to this perfect little book.

Father Declan de Loughry knows the small community he serves intimately, but one deathbed confession has left him with questions about transgression, love, suffering, and forgiveness that he’s not sure how to reconcile. When Edna Dennehy approaches death, she calls the priest to share “the all of it,” the truth about her decades-long marriage to Kevin. It’s a secret she’s carried years after Kevin himself died, but its truth can only be shared now that she too is dying.

This is a truly beautiful and empathetic book and at only 160 pages long, why not give it a read?

Sometimes the ticket to jumpstart my reading life again is to dive into a book of compelling short stories. The buy-in is relatively low and you can dip in and out whenever you want to without losing track of the story—simply read one story, then book the book aside for however long you want.

Through all the stories in this collection, Jhumpa Lahiri examines what it means to be attached to one’s culture in the face of a changing or foreign world. These stories are certainly not light, but they often offer a level of hope and belonging as the characters grapple with what it means to be Indian and be connected to their cultural heritage. My favorite stories were “A Temporary Matter,” “Mrs. Sen’s,” and “Interpreter of Maladies.”

If you enjoy a book deeply rooted in its cultural context and appreciate truly spectacular writing at the line level (Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for this book), pick this one up. It’d be a perfect rainy day companion.

I’ve never been a huge fan of The Catcher in the Rye, but this lesser-known Salinger book forever holds a spot in my heart. I love it so much that when I had to select books to read for my independent study in novel writing my junior year of college, I added it to my syllabus immediately. For writers, it’s one of the best books to read for character voice, in my opinion.

Structured as two parallel stories, the book is a glimpse at the personalities and relationships of two siblings in the Glass family (who are also central in many of the stories in Nine Stories). Franny’s story finds her on a date with her college boyfriend, seemingly her perfect match, but with whom she struggles to communicate her true feelings and desires. Zooey’s story finds him consoling and advising his younger sister Franny and dealing with his own existential questions.

This is the longest book on my list, but it’s worth investing those extra pages if you’re someone who loves complex characters with deep emotional lives and you don’t need too much plot to stay engaged.

Though it’s not my absolute favorite Kent Haruf book (that distinction belongs to the Plainsong trilogy, particularly the final installment), this was the book of his that made me want to read more.

Coming in at just 179 pages, this slim and emotionally resonant book tells the story of a late-in-life companionship between Addie Moore and Louis Waters. Several years after her husband’s death, Addie approaches her neighbor Louis with a strange proposal (which I won’t spoil for you). Louis agrees and the two find something they’ve been missing in their solitude and which bewilders their adult children.

If you enjoy beautifully written books with complicated relationships and community at their center, Haruf is a great choice for you and this would be the perfect starting point.

Do you prefer shorter or longer books? Do you have a favorite “quick win” read?


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Image by Susan Q Yin


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